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SSH 205 Library Instruction

Timeline of Information Creation (Infographic)

What are scholarly and popular sources

Learning Objective:

  • Identify between a scholarly source and a popular source
  • Understand the timeline of information production

The Terms: 

"Scholarly" and "popular" are terms used to describe a source's content, purpose, audience and more.

MacLeans Magazine cover with Rob Ford - a popular sourcePopular Sources
  • Include magazines, newspaper articles, and popular books
  • Rarely cite other sources 
  • Are useful for getting ideas for a topic or for background and anecdotal information
  • Are written for a general audience, informal in tone and scope
  • May be short: magazine and newspaper articles are often 200-500 words

Watch out! Magazines that cover academic topics for general audiences are considered "popular" i.e., National Geographic, Scientific American, Psychology Today.

Scholarly Sources
  • Are written by experts: the majority have PhDs
  • Have author(s) associated with universities, research institutions or hospitals
  • Contain original research
  • Cite other sources extensively throughout and contain works cited section
  • Have an audience of other experts and university students studying in the same field
  • Contain academic language and content
  • Are often peer-reviewed

“Peer-Reviewed” Articles 

Peer-reviewed articles are scholarly sources that have undergone a review process before being published. Experts in a particular field of study submit their original research in the form of an article to a journal publisher. Before it can be published, it will be evaluated and critiqued by researchers and experts in the same field; hence, reviewed by their peers.


From North Carolina State University Library (Closed Captioned)

How to Evaluate your Sources

Evaluating your Sources with the CRAAP Test

From the University of Western Ontario Libraries (Closed Captioned)


C = Currency: 

When was the information published? Is it up to date?

R = Relevance

Is the information what you're really looking for? Who is the material written for: academics, professionals, students, or the general public?

A = Authority:

 Who published, wrote, or edited the information? Is the author an expert on the topic?

A= Accuracy: 

Is the information reliable and accurate? Do other sources verify this information?

P = Purpose: 

What is the purpose of the information? Is it biased to one point of view?


For more info Try our Handout - the PARCA Test (CRAAP) (PDF)  (Accessible Version)

*Emoji courtesy of

Using Popular and Scholarly Sources in your Essay

Popular vs Scholarly Quiz